Technically savvy and patriotic, Nick Lopez always knew he wanted to use his talent to serve his country. At 17 years old, he left behind the girl who had been his steady for two years with a request that she wait for him, and enlisted in the Army. The next 14 years of his life were filled with stateside active duty, multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and a wedding. Now a 31-year-old father of three, Nick’s days of service to his country were over, but settling down and caring for his family financially, proved more difficult than he was prepared for.
Breaking the Bank
“When I first came home, it was really hard looking for work,” says Lopez. “I joined the military at such a young age that I had no history of work outside of the Army. My military experience included IT training but other than that, I had an empty resume.” Compounding Lopez’s struggle was the Army’s strict adherence to rules about not verifying the details of individual veteran’s military experience and work skills to potential employers. “The commander can’t comment to people outside of the military about this stuff, so it always sounds like they’re keeping a secret that might be negative. It creates a roadblock to employment. The employer is left to wonder if the vet will go crazy or cause problems,” he adds.
Lopez and his family lived off his GI Bill, and when that stipend ran out, they started to dip heavily into their life savings. “I was out of work for three years and felt like a failure. I had regrets at that time about joining the military, because of the way things worked out, but my wife was always supportive and we survived. She never made me feel badly about anything and we never went hungry,” he says.
Getting desperate, Lopez tried an experiment. He left his military service off of his resume and got more call backs from potential employers that way. The jobs he was being offered were mundane and did not use his advanced technical knowledge, but he had to support his family. He went through a series of low-level positions that paid little and offered no real future. He was getting desperate when he received a life changing telephone call.
The Sharp Decisions V.E.T.S. Program
"Our finances were running out when I got a call from Sharp Decisions about their V.E.T.S. Program. I had an interview and job offer within a few days, after three years of looking. Now, I am an administrator working in quality assurance and software testing. I go to work every day as part of a team, along with other vets. We train together and have a sense of reliance on each other. We all work in different areas of the company, but are all in it together,” says Lopez.
“V.E.T.S. is a highly effective program that trains veterans in squads for civilian technology careers,” says David Lieberson, an account executive for Sharp Decisions in New York. “The program helps retain the specialized knowledge our soldiers learned from working with advanced technology in the military and applies it to the private sector. The success of the program *in transitioning veterans into civilian life* stems from its military-inspired structure which leverages the team-focused skills that vets already possess,” he explains.
It worked for Nick. “Sharp V.E.T.S. saved my life,” says Lopez, adding, “People think that vets join the military because they don’t have skills, but that’s not true. I joined the Army because I wanted to serve my country. The kind of job I now have, I was bred for in the military. After three years of looking, I’m grateful I was finally given the chance to do what I do best, and support my family in the way that they deserve.”
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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